Interview: Doldrums: “It’s the first time I’ve had a formula”

Doldrums: “It’s the first time I’ve had a formula”

Airick Woodhead gives an update on new material and the making of his ‘The Air Conditioned Nightmare’ LP.

Airick Woodhead released his Doldrums debut, ‘Lesser Evil’, in 2013. It was a brilliantly barmy mix of glitchy electronic experimentation, giving way to an eventual follow-up that promises to be all the more bonkers – ‘The Air Conditioned Nightmare’.

Track titles like ‘Funeral for Lightning’ and ‘iDeath’ highlight Woodhead’s comment that “paranoid sentiment and Dystopian imagery” are at the heart of the album, but ‘Hotfoot’, the song he’s already shared, promises that they’ll be brilliantly frazzled sonic mayhem to accompany it. It’s a mind-demolishing jumble of beats, basslines and effects. 

With the album out this April, DIY chatted to Woodhead about what’s changed in his world and while, though conflict is at the heart of this album, music is still fun to him.

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What’s changed in your world since ‘Lesser Evil’?

Everything, basically. When I recorded ‘Lesser Evil’ I had no resources, was living in between jam spaces and booking DIY tours. In contrast, most of ‘The Air Conditioned Nightmare’ was written with a full live band while we were opening for bands like Crystal Castles and Sleigh Bells, where you’re playing for thousands of people who have never heard of you. It didn’t come out of a bedroom or a laptop – there’s much more of a live feel. 

I was touring so much and my van was broken into and my laptop and passport stolen right before I was supposed to go to Europe with HEALTH. That, and parting with my manager and label around the same time, gave me a wake up call. It was like, I can’t keep going like this. That among other things was a sign that what I was doing was not emotionally sustainable, so I decided to settle down and work on the record. 

I found out that Damian Taylor, who worked on Björk and The Prodigy, had a studio literally across the street from me, so I took a long shot and played him the demos for the album. He was into them enough that he decided he wanted to mix the record.

So playing the first album live informed the sound on this one?

Most of these new songs have been toured and taken out of their cages allowed to breath the sweet air, before being hammered out, clamped down, stamped and shipped off into the nether.

“It’s basically about fear; but an especially American consumer brand of fear.”

Airick Woodhead

You seem to be someone almost overwhelmed with new ideas – has this album moved into a new sonic space?

It’s the first time I’ve had a formula. It’s funny I remember when I was growing up using ‘formulaic’ as a diss but right now I’m feeling like it’s a life-saver. I use DJ gear to make music.  

I don’t want to re-invent the wheel every time I make a song. I put the sounds together on my Traktor decks and we flush it out live. Sometimes an idea for the singing is what starts a song, and sometimes it naturally comes last.

The album’s named after Henry Miller’s 1945 collection of essays about the mood and spirit of the American people – what was it you took from those essays?

‘The Air Conditioned Nightmare’ is basically about fear; but an especially American consumer brand of fear. It’s about driving for months and months from city to city and passing identical pit stops every day. It’s about retaliating against that and being human and being fucked up.

How has it made a difference being signed to Sub Pop?

We were playing a show at Silent Barn (a DIY venue in NYC) this summer and the Sub Pop dudes came out to see us. They were wearing plaid and drinking lattes so they were easy to spot as the Seattle-ers.

I think I drank 10 coffees and talked to them a while. They basically said, “What do you need to finish this record so that you’re happy with it?” and I told them I had to work with Shawn Everette, who I did some of’ Lesser Evil’ with, and who is an insane genius. So they made that possible, and therefore, the record.

‘The Air Conditioned Nighttime’ is out 6th April on Sub Pop.